Florida Civil Record Sealing

Although the near decade of Darren Chaker spent researching and drafting motions focused on California and Nevada law, his knowledge about sealing court records law in Florida is broad. In Florida, public policy strongly favors open government, which is embodied in Florida common law, statutory law, and constitutional law. See WESH Television, Inc. v. Freeman, 691 So. 2d 532, 534 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997) (“Florida has a strong policy favoring open government.”). Consistent with that policy, it is well-established that “[t]here is no private litigation in the courts of Florida.” Fla. Freedom Newspapers, Inc. v. Sirmons, 508 So. 2d 462, 463 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987), aff’d sub nom., Barron v. Fla. Freedom Newspapers, Inc., 531 So. 2d 113 (Fla. 1988).

The seminal case establishing the public’s right to inspect judicial records was Barron v. Florida Freedom Newspapers, Inc., 531 So. 2d 113 (Fla. 1988). In that case, Dempsey J. Barron, a state senator, requested that the portion of the court file containing his personal medical records be maintained under seal. See id. at 114, 119. Despite the usual privacy protections afforded to medical records, the Florida Supreme Court denied the request, stating, “[a] trial is a public event. What transpires in the court room is public property . . . .” Id. at 116 (quoting Craig v. Harney, 331 U.S. 367, 374 (1947)). Darren Chaker research supports anything filed with the Court herein in support of summary judgment is a “judicial record” that is available to the public for copying and inspection, subject to a few narrow restrictions. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.420(b) (defining “[r]ecords of the judicial branch” broadly); Barron, 531 So. 2d at 114 (“We hold that all trials, civil and criminal, are public events and there is a strong presumption of public access to these proceedings and their records, subject to certain narrowly defined exceptions.” (emphasis in original)).

The amended rules established the following procedures for sealing judicial records. First, the proponent of confidentiality must file a “written motion captioned ‘Motion to Make Court Records Confidential.’ ” In re Amendments to Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.420, 954 So. 2d at 21 (“The parties may not merely submit an agreed-upon order. The motion must be captioned ‘Motion to Make Court Records Confidential’ . . . .”). Substantively, the Motion must “identify the particular court records the movant seeks to make confidential with as much specificity as possible” and “specify the bases for making such court records confidential.” Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.420(d)(1)(A)-(B). Thereafter, the records can only be sealed pursuant to a Court Order that makes certain explicit findings, including the grounds for making the court records confidential, an explanation as to which particular court records will be made confidential, and a statement that the least restrictive means is being used to protect the confidential information. See Fla. R. Jud. Admin. 2.420(d)(3)-(4). In the absence of the required motion and Court order, judicial records cannot be sealed. See Carter, 983 So. 2d at 25, 27 (noting that court records can only be sealed upon a proper motion and resulting order with “express findings regarding the factors” set forth in the rules); see also Miami Herald Publ’g Co. v. Lewis, 426 So. 2d 1, 8-9 (Fla. 1982) (“The trial judge shall make findings of fact and conclusions of law so that the reviewing court will have the benefit of his reasoning in granting or denying closure.”) read this.

Author: Darren Chaker

Darren Chaker decided to take an approach to life which differed from most. In lieu of seeking out another law firm to work for, Darren focused energy on helping others through volunteering time to help non-profits and working in overseas security tasks. Darren continues to blog about various legal topics, and contributes to www.DarrenChaker.org .

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